In-law shoots housewife
Army ammo stolen in Andal
SEB cracks reforms whip
Police net cast wide for PWG
Crorepati homecoming for Asian battle
Night knock on Manoj’s ancestral house
Troops close in on militant in mosque
Patriot George at the pulpit
BJP split over temple trump card for UP
Uttaranchal set for new CM

Canning (South 24-Parganas), Oct. 28: 
A 27-year-old housewife, Ambia Bibi, was shot dead by her brother-in-law and two of his cousins at her Maukhali residence last night.

All three were arrested by the Canning police, who rescued them from being lynched after Ambia’s body was recovered in the wetlands near her home this morning. The arrests were made after a complaint was lodged by her husband, Lutfar Rahman, police said.

Lutfar told the police that Ambia, his second wife, was not liked by his family. “Since our marriage a year ago, we repeatedly asked her to change her wayward ways,” Lutfar was quoted as telling investigators by Canning police station officer-in-charge Gautam Sil. “But she did not mend her ways,” Lutfar added.

Last night, taking advantage of Lutfar’s absence, his brother, Abdur, and two cousins shot Ambia near her ear with a pipegun. The body — police think Ambia died on the spot — was dumped in the nearby wetlands.

Villagers found the body floating this morning and Abdur moving about suspiciously. Confronted, Abdur confessed and took his cousins’ names.

Villagers went to the cousins’ home and began beating all three. Police later found the three in a critical condition. They were arrested and admitted to hospital.

Police do not rule out Lutfar’s involvement. “We are looking into the angle that Lutfar could have planned his wife’s murder,” additional superintendent of police S.S. Panda said.


Burdwan, Oct. 28: 
A box of ammunition belonging to the army was stolen from the wagon of a special train at Andal station last night.

The police was tight-lipped about the theft. District superintendent of police B.N. Ramesh said: “We have started an inquiry into the theft.”

The railway and district police conducted a joint raid through the night to track down the culprits. “We have sent a message to all the nearby police stations and railway station authorities. The district police have been asked to step up highway vigil. We are also checking the local trains thoroughly. But nothing has been found so far,” said an officer of the Andal GRP.

Police sources said when the special train, ferrying arms and ammunition from the Panagarh military base to Guwahati, halted near the outer signal at Andal station last night, an army guard noticed that the wagon seal was broken. He raised an alarm and the government railway police was informed. The ammunition boxes were unloaded and counted at the police station. One was found missing.


Calcutta, Oct. 28: 
West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) has drawn up a plan to convert its five distribution zones into independent profit-earning centres.

The electricity board has also set down key performance indicators, including providing new connections within 20 days and reducing the length of time between sending a disconnection notice and actual disconnection to eight days. The average time to repair or replace meters will be 15 days. The average time to take up emergency work will vary between 30 minutes and five hours, depending on the locality.

Senior WBSEB officials said with the formation of the profit centres, the board sought to improve operational efficiency, maximise revenue realisation, reduce costs and, therefore, strive to achieve financial self-efficiency.

“This will be done with the enforcement of accountability and financial discipline at each level through application of the key performance indicators for evaluation of performances, both operational and financial, at various activity processes and for identifying deficiencies for their removal,” an official said.

The plan envisages the installation of metering equipment in all sub-stations and incoming and outgoing feeders from 11 kv to 132 kv to record the power received and sent out and to identify the quantum of power utilised at zonal, circle and division levels.

The amount of energy received by a zone as recorded in the metering system will be shown as its payment liability. Every zone will pay for the energy received for distribution under its jurisdiction.

Consolidated statement of revenue earned and expenses incurred will be prepared for each zone. There will be a system of notional profit sharing within the zones after allowing for corporate costs.

Each zone will conduct market research and develop its own programme for professional and profitable goals.


Midnapore, Oct. 28: 
Alarmed at the People’s War Group threat to eliminate some CPM leaders, including a minister, the police last night began combing the forests on the Midnapore-Bankura border.

The PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) have made inroads in Salboni, Joypur and Goaltore forests despite strict vigil.

Inspector-general of police (Western Range) G.R. Bhagat yesterday held a meeting in Bankura with the superintendents of police of two districts to coordinate the operation. Bhagat is expected to submit a report to director-general D.C. Vajpai.

Three days ago, the police arrested PWG activist Sadhan Ahir from a forest on the border and recovered a hit-list from him. Police said six persons, including minister of state for labour and employment exchange Susanta Ghosh figured on the list.

Hours after stumbling on the PWG gameplan, the police launched its operation in Belpahari, Banspahari, Kankrajhore and Chhoto Angaria, reputed to be PWG strongholds. The search for Naxalite leaders will continue for some days, Midnapore police superintendent K.C. Meena said.

He said the Eastern Frontier Rifles, State Armed Police and the Rapid Action Force had also been deployed. “We have given bullet-proof jackets to the policemen conducting the operation,” Meena added.

Ahir told the police that the PWG planned to execute the CPM leaders for killing six of their supporters in Chhoto Angaria on January 3 this year.


London, Oct. 28: 
TV wars have broken out in the UK, with the announcement that the Amitabh Bachchan-fronted Kaun Banega Corepati? will be broadcast from tomorrow to Asian television viewers.

The latter are also able to watch the home-grown parent programme, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? British Asians will not be able to take part in KBC, though, as contestants have to come from India. The decision by STAR TV to broadcast the programme is an indication of the intensifying battle for UK’s Asian television and satellite market.

STAR has spent months negotiating with Celador, the production company which created Who Wants to be a Millionaire? — on which KBC is modelled — and with the ITV network, which owns the exclusive rights to broadcast the programme in the UK.

Ruth Settle, Celador’s press officer, told The Telegraph today: “We license the show to STAR TV in India and they asked for permission to show it in the UK. We asked ITV, who were happy for KBC to be shown on cable.”

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is currently licensed to 75 countries across the world and is a huge hit everywhere.

Settle pointed out that ITV did not consider KBC to be competition as it would be “appealing to a different audience”.

STAR, which began its UK operations in January, hopes that this show, which is “the jewel in our programming crown”, will enable the channel to acquire a larger market share of Asian subscribers.

The Asian population in Britain is thought to be about 2 million and half of them subscribe to many of the Asian satellite and cable channels. At present, the market leader is Zee Television which has been broadcasting for seven years and has around 120,000 household subscribers.

Suruchi Sthalekar, head of marketing at STAR, was reluctant to divulge the number of subscribers for the channel but said: “Obviously our game is to be number one.”

However, industry analysts put the figure of STAR subscribers at about 10,000.

KBC will be shown four nights a week from October 29. This is part of a drive by STAR to take on its rivals, Zee and Sony TV. STAR, which broadcasts on the Sky digital platform, has signed a deal with a cable company to make the channel available on a cable platform and is offering subscribers a three-month free trial period to encourage them to sign up. It has also unencrypted its news service during the crisis following the terror strikes.

Even as KBC makes its British debut it will be yanked off STAR Plus from Monday, cutting its viewing almost by half within 15 months of its launch. The game show will now go on air in India twice a week at prime time, instead of the four days it had started off with.

The channel, trying to remain a step ahead of its competition, is now looking forward to a superhit BBC game show.


Patna, Oct. 28: 
An armed gang knocked on Manoj Bajpai’s ancestral home on the night he was supposed to be there, fuelling speculation that the actor was targeted for abduction.

Manoj was scheduled to visit his ancestral home, Belwa Kothi, in West Champaran district to attend a family function but had cancelled his visit due to his heavy shooting schedule.

About 15-20 armed men tried to enter the actor’s ancestral home in the dead of night on October 24, but fled when neighbours raised an alarm. Residents of the village, located in the Gunaha block, were asleep at the time of the attack.

Sources in the office of the Bettiah superintendent of police said the entire family, barring the actor, was present when the gang approached the house. Manoj’s brothers, sisters and other relatives had come down to their ancestral home to celebrate the birthday of the actor’s nephew.

The actor was also supposed to celebrate Dussehra with his family and had plans to stay back for the ceremony, the sources said. On being informed over phone by his father, Manoj got in touch with Laloo Prasad Yadav and Shatrughan Sinha and requested security for his family.

Tight security arrangements have been made for the protection of Manoj’s family. Police said they were probing the incident, but ruled out the possibility of an attempted abduction.

However, other sources said Manoj was scheduled to arrive the day the attack took place and spend a few days in Belwa Kothi for the ceremony. The gang must have known about the function and the actor’s original programme, they added.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made around the actor’s ancestral home following orders from the director-general of police. The police said the areas where the West Champaran gangs had their hideouts were under the strict vigil of the task force constituted for this purpose.

Manoj’s brothers and sisters had come down from Gorakhpur, Delhi and Muzaffarpur for the function.

For many members of the family, this was their first visit to Belwa Kothi.


Srinagar, Oct. 28: 
The siege of the Jamia mosque where a militant is holed up continued for the second day on Sunday.

A senior police officer said that the cordon around the mosque at Panzan in the central Kashmir district of Budgamwas was further tightened this evening and more troops had been deployed.

“Hopefully we will neutralise him by tomorrow,” the officer said on conditions of anonymity.

Police sources here said several teargas shells were lobbed into the mosque to smoke out the militant. The security personnel also fired into the mosque after the militant hurled a grenade and fired from his assault rifle.

One Special Police Officer was injured in the exchange.

Members of the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir police made attempts to enter the mosque.

“Intermittent firing exchange is continuing between the holed up militant and the security forces who have laid siege to the mosque,” witnesses said late this evening. “We could hear sounds of gun fire.”

“It is almost certain that there is only one militant holed up inside the mosque,” said the Kashmir Range police chief A.K. Bhan. The siege was still continuing, he added.

Reports said yesterday that between two and three militants were hiding inside the mosque. Several residents of Panzan have shifted to other adjoining areas in view of the continued siege in their village.

Security forces conducted house-to-house searches in the village for the second day. The villagers were also subjected to identification parades.

Elsewhere, militants attacked a camp of the security forces last night with rockets at Awantipore in the south Kashmir district of Anantnag. Sources said the militants fired several rockets on the camp. No damage was, however, reported.


New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
Nearly four decades ago in 1962, George Fernandes, now defence minister, was in the midst of some 40-odd worker agitations, moving from factory gate to factory gate, mobilising support for strikes.

Then one day, as news came of the Chinese “aggression”, “it did not take me even half-a-minute to call off the strikes and join in the war effort,” Fernandes recalls.

“Such was the patriotic fervour that swept the country that year! The nation was solidly behind the war effort. It was the kind of fervour that has not been experienced since, not even during the Kargil war when there were voices of dissidence and there were questions raised on how Pakistan surreptitiously occupied the Kargil heights.”

George Fernandes’ remembrance of times past is political nostalgia, driven by the motive to smother dissent. The defence minister — chief guest at an Infantry Day function where Lt. General V.R. Raghavan, former director-general of military operations, delivered the Field Marshal Cariappa Memorial Lecture — did not have a prepared speech.

He rambled on cynically about how difficult it was getting for him to evolve a security paradigm for the country. It was plainspeaking; it was also introspection in black and white, uncomplicated and simplistic.

“Truth has seldom prevailed in our security perceptions,” Fernandes said after Raghavan’s speech on “Comprehensive Security for India.”

“Frankly, I do not know whether we are prepared to face the reasons for this and then agree to face the challenges because we are a nation that is so divided,” Fernandes ruminated.

The defence minister believed that indiscipline has crept into every facet of Indian life and this was telling on the armed forces. “This week (the week leading to Dussehra) has been a week of holidays. Many senior officers have been on leave. National security has to do with discipline and character,” Fernandes shook his head indicating a helplessness that took many in the audience, including the diplomatic corps, by surprise.

Just as suddenly, he turned to China. “China has won the race even before we have learnt to run it. China’s real strength today in the world is its economic growth and I do not see an awareness of this…,” he meandered away before suddenly recalling how he, a former trade union leader, had taken on tough unions.

“As minister for defence, I have to look after defence PSUs. There is a Garden Reach workshop in Calcutta” – he was meaning the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers – “that builds warships. When I got into the ministry, I found that the contact time of the workers was just two-and-a-half-hours while they were being paid for eight hours. For any more work, they asked for overtime. They thought that with my trade union past, I was not likely to make trouble for them. But I cracked the whip. The contact time increased to three-and-a-half hours. We do not seem to realise the kind of damage we could be causing to national security through lack of discipline and to be truthful in whatever it is we are doing – these are issues we have to address because on that rests the security of our future.”

From there Fernandes jumped to security of borders and made a point that will gladden the heart of the secessionist.

“We look at distant territories of India as if they are some sort of a colony! For example, Arunachal Pradesh – in terms of our approach to the problems there, the situation has not changed much. The people of the border regions must have a stake in the land, and that stake cannot be one of sufferance!”

Fernandes’ speech was a reaction to Raghavan’s lecture.


New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
The BJP is uncertain about whether the Ram temple issue would benefit it in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Many within the party do not share Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s observation in Lucknow on Monday that the temple issue would not help the BJP in the forthcoming polls.

A section within the BJP felt that what would galvanise the cadre was Hindutva-related issues and not policy matters such as a separate reservation quota for the most backward castes and the Dalits, initiated by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh.

“Considering that the BJP’s mandir issue was a reaction to V.P. Singh’s Mandal politics because we tried to unite the Hindu samaj, which was in danger of getting divided on castes and sub-castes, we feel that the only subject we can articulate with conviction is Ayodhya,” sources said.

“The issues which make sense to our cadre are the temple, Kashmir and smashing terrorist camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and not esoteric ones like empowerment of the backward castes and Dalits,” the sources added.

But there are those who feel since the BJP had come to stay as a “party of governance”, it should not brook “brash adventurism” of the kind the Vishwa Hindu Parishad displayed earlier this month at Ayodhya. VHP working president Ashok Singhal accompanied by a host of VHP leaders and activists barged into the disputed site in Ayodhya and, consequently, flouted a Supreme Court directive.

“Law enforcers cannot be seen to protect law-breakers,” said a party functionary. To cheer the VHP and the Bajrang Dal while in the Opposition was not the same as patronising such outfits when in power at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh, the official added.

The events of the 1992-93 post-demolition phase had not benefitted the BJP electorally, the party official admitted. The party’s main worry remained the law and order problem both for the Uttar Pradesh administration and the Centre if the VHP decided to raise the pitch on Ayodhya.

“Imagine a situation where the Uttar Pradesh government is forced to lathi-charge the activists or use teargas. We will be promptly branded as anti-Hindutva,” the party functionary said, explaining the BJP’s dilemma. “If we don’t act, we will be seen as supporting the law-breakers.”

The factors most likely to affect the Uttar Pradesh elections were caste equations and governance, the sources said, adding, “It will be a verdict on our five-year rule and, therefore, the imperative is to focus on giving a good government rather than on Ram temple.”

The different perceptions on this issue have resulted in tension between the BJP and the VHP. Talking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, Singhal refused to admit that the recent barge-in at Ayodhya was either a violation of the law or the court order. He even disputed the Prime Minister’s contention that the act was the result of a “security lapse”.

Uttar Pradesh BJP president Kalraj Mishra, on the other hand, was quoted telling reporters in Faizabad on Saturday that the temple was neither part of the BJP’s political agenda nor an election issue.

He, however, remained non-committal when asked to comment on the VHP’s forced entry into the disputed premises and the Prime Minister’s remark that this may have damaged the BJP’s support base.


New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
Uttaranchal power minister Bhagat Singh Koshiari emerged as a dark horse edging out Union ministers Lt. Gen. B.C. Khanduri and Bachchi Singh Rawat in the race to replace Nityanand Swami as the new chief minister of the state.

Well placed BJP sources said Koshiari will be elected as the new leader at the legislature party meeting in Dehra Dun tomorrow. He is likely to be sworn in the day after. Former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre and certain other central observers would be present at the MLAs’ meeting.

Swami agreed to tender his formal resignation tomorrow but continued to make noises of dissent. His decision to quit comes in the wake of the leadership’s move to opt for a change of guard under a younger leadership in the state. Uttaranchal is slated to go to polls in February-March 2002.

Swami said he was having to quit because of “pressure from certain quarters”. “I want to make it clear that I have decided to resign on my own wish. But yes, I was under pressure from certain quarters under which I would not like to have worked,” he said.

The leadership’s decision on the new chief minister will be acceptable to him, the 73-year-old leader said. “See, I have been working for 18-hours-a-day as chief minister. At this time of the crucial Assembly elections, I cannot afford to take more strain,” Swami said, adding that he had fainted twice during his tenure.

BJP sources said Swami paid the price of “acting over-smart”. He had earned a reprieve till November 9 but once he returned from Delhi he began plotting against the central leadership, they said. Swami summoned MLAs individually and sounded them about a scenario where they were expected to defy the central leadership.

His detractors were quick to convey the “defiance” to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani.

The Vajpayee-Advani duo then decided to act swiftly and Swami was asked to step down. The chief minister had wanted to complete a year in office and that would have been possible had he been retained till November 9.

The Congress today demanded dissolution of the House and imposition of President’s rule in the state. It urged Governor S.S. Barnala to cancel the notification summoning the Assembly tomorrow.


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